SBS Upfronts: Multicultural broadcaster pushes programming to new heights

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 16 November 2016
New SBS show - Tale of Two Weddings.

SBS continues to push the boundaries of Australian television with a bold and diverse programming slate that explores and challenges contemporary multicultural issues other networks won’t touch.

In 2017, the multicultural public broadcaster will tackle racism, youth culture, challenge Aussie perceptions about refugees head-on, and broaden its food offering with the biggest and boldest range of first run programming in its 41-year history.

This includes 12 commissioned factual programs and documentaries that explore cultural diversity and provoke debate, as well as the launch of SBS Viceland, which took over the SBS 2 signal at 4pm on Tuesday and promises to become the go to TV platform for millennials.

SBS managing director Michael Ebeid told a room full of media buyers and marketers that as Australia’s cultural complexity continues to increase, the broadcaster’s role to inform and inspire greater understanding and unity is more important than ever before.

“All of us in this room are media players in a country where 28% of us were born overseas. Whether you are in media or a marketer, we all have the best incentive to represent that diversity of we are able to resonate and be relevant to all Australians,” Ebeid said.

“We’re motivated by our belief that by inspiring a greater understanding and connecting communities, we can shift perceptions and make a difference socially and economically.

“With the advent of Brexit, Trump and, on our own shores, the resurgence of One Nation, I think there’s an growing connection between economic disadvantage and racially motivated resentment, fear and uncertainty, and I think that can only be countered by helping all Australians understand each other better.” 

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Refugees | racism | poverty

SBS will kick off the ratings year with the thought-provoking doco series I’m Not Racist, But. This includes three new documentaries that expose and examine intolerance in Australia today - showcasing the very worst and best of the Australian psyche.

The interesting aspect about the I'm Not Racist season, which runs in February, is the different ways the stories are told, such as hidden camera stunts, science experiments and the largest national survey of its type. Research, science and deception to tell people how they really are.

“These approaches will provide some really interesting cut through approaches that can take quite a serious topic to a very large audience. If we want to make a difference to Australian society we need to reach out and engage with as many people as possible,” SBS head of TV and online content Marshall Heald tells AdNews.

Two new locally commissioned dramas will tackle refugees issues and how Australians perceive them to the fore.

Sunshine explores the world of South Sudanese refugees in Melbourne, following the story of a young basketball star forced to fight for his innocence after being accused of an assault.

Safe Harbour is a psychological thriller about a group of friends whose holiday of a lifetime alters their lives forever after crossing paths with a raft overloaded with asylum seekers when sailing around Australia.

Benjamin Law’s coming-of-age comedy The Family Law returns for a second series, as does a second-series of the controversial show Struggle Street.

Providing a different perspective of poverty, Indira Naidoo hosts an Australian version of the BBC format Filthy Rich and Homeless, which documents how a group of wealthy Australians would go living homeless and rough.

The Family Law

Food | culture | love

SBS’s largest new format for 2017 is a 13-week series that explores the heritage, history and diversity that drives Australia’s restaurant culture. The Chefs Line pits passionate home cooks against some of the best chefs in different cuisines across the country and will run weeknights at 6pm. The show is hosted by Maeve O’Meara, who will be joined by Sydney chef Dan Hong (Mr Wong, Ms G’s), Indigenous chef Mark Olive (Black Olive) and leading food writer Melissa Leong.

O’Meara will also return with two new series, Food Safari Earth and Food Safari Water. Other returning food favourites include Matthew Evans in a new season of Gourmet Farmer, Adam Liaw exploring his parent’s heritage in Destination Flavour Singapore, and Shane Delia’s Recipe for Life.

Adam Liaw

The Food Network welcomes former Masterchef stars Andy Allen and Ben Milbourne with Andy & Ben Eat Australia, the channel’s first foray into first-run local content.

SBS has also commissioned cultural exploration documentaries, including The Mosque (which features the MCG – Mosque Cricket Groud), Testing Teachers, A Tale of Two Weddings, Hidden History of Our Suburbs with Roy & HG’s Greig Pickhaver, and the return of Shaun Micallef's Stairway to Heaven for a second season.

There will also be two new relationship formats. Look Me in the Eye, hosted by Ray Martin, is a social experiment based on the proven counseling technique of non-verbal communication.

While Undressed promises plenty of fireworks as new couples test out their compatibility by undressing each other – on national television.  

SBS - Undressed

Drama | sport | NITV

The broadcaster will important popular international dramas Knightfall (a historical drama about knights), Medici: Masters of Florence (Dustin Hoffman stars in a series about the Medici dynasty), Deutschland 83 (German spy period drama set in Cold War) and The Night Manager (Hugh Lawrie and Tom Hiddlestone star in this crime drama). There’s also new series of Fargo, Vikings and Bosch.

SBS will continue to cover selected matches of the English Premier League, UEFA Champions League, FIFA Confederations Cup and provide Australia’s most extensive coverage of major cycling events. Non-sports events of note include the Mardi Gras and Eurovision.

Indigenous channel NITV features heart-warming entertainment through the eyes of nine sisters in Family Rules. Leading Indigenous talent Miranda Tapsell, Deborah Mailman, Ningali Lawford and Aaron Fa’aoso will also star in a new children’s animated series, Little J & Big Cuz.

SBS - Going Places

In addition to linear television, Australia’s largest on-demand library, SBS On Demand, will continue to grow with 6,000 hours of programs – many that are exclusively available online.

“SBS is delivering a year of our boldest and most distinctive programs yet,” Ebeid added. “As well as our core SBS services in news and current affairs, sport, in-language programs and Indigenous media, we’ve got a fantastic slate of diverse and contemporary programs, with authentic and unique propositions that you can’t find anywhere else.”

Perhaps the most exciting is the launch of SBS Viceland, which first aired on television at 4pm Tuesday.

SBS Viceland covers a range of millennial topics through the eyes of young filmmakers and you can read more about its programming slate and how well the channel has performed in other markets. 

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